BUNNLEVEL, N.C. — An autopsy report on a 3-year-old boy found dead in a neighbor's back yard Tuesday night in Harnett County suggests he was mauled to death by a neighbor's dog.
The autopsy report states Nathan Roy Hill, of Bunnlevel, suffered injuries to the upper torso. The sheriff's office said it appears Hill wandered into a neighbor's yard and into the reach of a pit bull mixed breed that was chained. The dog attacked the boy, killing him.
The boy's body was found just before 6:30 p.m. on Doris Drive in the Anderson Creek community. Authorities found two bite marks on Nathan's body.
Christy Gambill said her son was last seen two hours earlier, playing outside. When Gambill could not find her him, neighbors stared searching. They did not look near the dog, since she said Nathan was scared of it. Then Gambill called 911.
A responding officer found the boy's body next door near the 80- to 90-pound dog. The deputy shot the dog to get to the boy's body.
A second dog was in an above ground cage in the area, but does not appear to have been involved in the incident, according to the sheriff's office.
"It's hard. It hasn't fully hit yet. I'm just trying to get things done before it hits," Gambill said.
Veronica Copley, the owner of the dogs, helped search for the boy. She told WRAL that she has had the dogs for seven years and has a child of her own, but that there has never been any trouble with them. A beware of dog sign is posted on her property.
Neighbors said animal control has been called to the neighborhood before.
The boy's stepfather, who was on military duty in Iraq, was notified about the death and on his way home Tuesday night, Sherriff Larry Rollins said. The boy's father lives in Texas.
Investigators are trying to determine if the dog had rabies. The child and dog involved were being examined by the Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill.
As deputies continue their investigation, they are trying to determine whether neglect charges should be filed against Gambill for leaving her son unsupervised.
North Carolina ranks seventh nationwide in
fatal dog attacks
with 17 cases documented between 1965 and 2001.
Across the country, 79 percent of all fatal dog attacks were on children under the age of 12; 21 percent of those attacks involved a pit bull, or a pit bull mix.
According to Fatal Dog Attacks, from 1965 through 2001, 25 percent of all deadly dog attacks were inflicted by chained dogs. An equal amount resulted from dogs that were loose in their yard. Twenty-three percent occured inside the home and 17 percent resulted from attacks by dogs roaming off their property. Another 10 percent involved leashed dogs or other miscellaneous circumstances.